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Day 1

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Chapters I–II

November 15, 2022 by Yiyun Li

“My godmother lived in a handsome house…” An odd opening, not starting with the first-person narrator or her family, but her godmother. Quite a contrast to: “Call me Ishmael.” “My name is Ruth.” “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life…” 

In chapter 2 the narrator names herself: “I, Lucy Snowe…” Who is she? The opening chapters give fleeting glimpses of her background, but for now she strives to be opaque and not entirely visible, my favorite kind of first-person narrator.

The verb Lucy mostly claims: “watch,” while no one around seems to be paying much attention to her. I, however, am! Watching her take notice of the world feels like outwatching her.

She said to me, "Take no notice at present." But I did take notice.

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